BLET wins duty of fair representation lawsuit

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has been completely vindicated in a duty of fair representation lawsuit brought against the union by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) engineer who was dissatisfied with the outcome of his discipline case.

According to BLET National Division Attorney Tom Brennan, the former BNSF engineer from San Bernardino, Calif., filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Los Angeles in February 2004 against BNSF and BLET. Brother Brennan reports that the former engineer was fired in March 2002 for a stop signal violation, and that his firing was upheld at arbitration before a Public Law Board (PLB), due in large part to his prior record of operating rule violations.

The former engineer claimed that BNSF discriminated against him because of his race and that BLET violated its duty of fair representation even though he had acknowledged throughout the grievance and appeal process that he was satisfied with the representation provided by the union.

"The record in this case clearly shows that every BLET officer involved with protecting this member's rights - including the former and current local chairmen of Division 662 who handled the case on the property (Al Nerkowski and Rudy Borrego), as well as General Chairman Pat Williams, who presented the case to the PLB - did an excellent job," Brother Brennan said. "Instead of filing this ridiculous lawsuit, this member should be thanking these officers for working so hard to save his job in spite of his terrible work record."

The union vigorously defended its position in court. Prior to trial, both BNSF and BLET filed motions to dismiss the case. Before the court ruled on those motions, the plaintiff agreed to settle with the company and the union, receiving only a nominal amount from BNSF and no money at all from the BLET.

"I could not in good conscience authorize payment of even a nominal amount to this plaintiff after he made unfounded attacks against the credibility and character of the union officers on BNSF and this organization," Brennan said. "If his plan was to force the union to pay him money in exchange for dropping the lawsuit and avoiding negative publicity, he was sadly mistaken. This outcome completely vindicated the representational efforts made by our dedicated officers on behalf of this member."

Brennan offered a special note of thanks to retired BLET General Counsel Harold Ross and Local Counsel Ira L. Gottlieb of Geffner & Bush in Burbank, Calif., for all of their fine work in bringing this case to a satisfactory conclusion.


© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen